Wax Runoff: The Black Madonna [ARGOT 006]

Perhaps my favorite release from Chicago-based label Argot came in the form of a two track 12” from well-loved hometown artist The Black Madonna in 2013. For a while this super bad piece of music was tough to find. Copies of the Lady of Sorrows E.P. were scarce and resale value was high. That’s why it was splendid that the label decided to go ahead and give it a repress last year.

The record is well-deserving of a spot in anyone’s collection partly due to it’s exploration of stylistic cues. Not quite house, not quite disco, and not quite techno – the sounds contained in the grooves are top quality and never seem to have an ambiguous moment, yet combine much of what is enjoyable about each genre.

The repress lacks an outer sleeve, which is a very acceptable price to pay for such expertly crafted tunes. The only sort of artwork involved is on the opposite side of the EP info: a sketch of clasped rosary hands. Indeed, the music on the record feels celestial, hopeful, weighted by guilt and elated by enlightenment.

The Black Madonna

ARGOT 006

“A Jealous Heart Never Rests” on the A-side (which if you’ve ever seen her perform) is quite honestly a perfect ode to the types of music she likes to play. Classic disco drum samples create a wonderful organic foundation upon which very dramatic chords in the form of a string quartet elicit an immediate emotional response. The tastiest aspect of the tune though is the marvelously chunky bass arpeggio that dances over the drums and around the various other tonal elements in the track. In fact, it’s deeply impressive how many different instruments make their way into the composition without clouding one another. A lot of objectively good dance music doesn’t often incorporate many sounds in key because it runs the danger of being too complex and preventing the notes that already exist from shining. Chicago house influence is not lost in this tune; halfway through, the obligatory warm chord stab triplet injects itself into the mix before the other elements come swirling back around everything. This track is full, strong, and not afraid – perfect for early to peak hour dancing.

On the flip side you will find “We Can Never Be Apart” and it takes the same sort of musical approach to construction. It’s always interesting when the same instruments are used to make all the tracks on an EP. The same bass arp instrument is present again, but more toned down this time around. Synthetic bells instead creep in to add layers and give it more life. The disco drums are back too, but play a more up front role. There is still a massive amount going on musically speaking, and it’s equally as impressive as the first time. Where the first tune is really a nod to house and more modern dance music, this second number seems to be more reminiscent of ’80s synthpop due to different phrase structuring and key shifts. That’s the trouble with trying to pin down The Black Madonna’s sound, though. She really doesn’t pigeonhole herself to a set template. Her music is tentative and liquid. I find all her work to be this fantastic intersection of style and class, prompting a sound that is very much all her own.

This record is still around some of your favorite outlets. Juno limited purchases to one per customer but it’s still a tad steep. The best way to get a new un-played copy is through Discogs and well worth the price. As if the repress didn’t indicate these are truly top-notch tunes, the soaring orchestral work coupled with incredibly strong drum arrangements will see you playing this record over and over again.

 

Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Nick States, of Boston, bought his first vinyl record in 2010 and has been hooked ever since. The record shop tends to be his first stop in an any city he visits.

Wax Runoff: Rick Wade [PoEM 006]

One of the records that I keep coming back to from the last month is Rick Wade’s deliciously dark Escapism EP. Detroit native Rick needs no introduction for most deep house fanatics. He’s been putting out quality house tunes since the mid 90s on respected labels like A Touch of Class, Viva!, and Moods and Grooves to name a few. The sorts of clichéd house maneuvers that can potentially trap new music into being terribly unexciting are expertly executed on his tracks.

When I saw this simple black paper sleeved 12” in the “New This Week!” bin at my local shop in February, I instantly snapped the last copy up. Having a penchant for the aesthetics of packaging and artwork (regardless of the legendary artist credit) I quite liked the three photos found on the center labels. On the info side: a human standing in the dark mouth of an enclave looking out into the light. On the other: a man giving two thumbs up on a crowded street corner full of people who seem not to notice him, and below, a lonely child climbing a snowy hill with his sled. These images really symbolized for me the reasons why we engage in escapism within the first place – an unrelenting feeling of being out of place and alone.

PoEM 006

The 45 RPM A-side which features the title track is easily the most stripped back and simple of the trio. An overpowering kick drum slamming it’s way through a heavily filtered chord that pitch shifts it’s way into a fabulously melancholic arrangement. A constant tape hiss in the background compliments the distant and downplayed snare drum, and the hi-hat pattern never falters from its straight 8th note on the upbeat. These elements come in and out while a gorgeous set of strings add to the atmosphere. The track lies somewhere between techno and house, and is incredibly rhythmic but remains simple in it’s scope.

Over to the B-side on 33 RPM lies the second composition, “Stand Alone”. This number is much more related to his classic style with more organic drum samples and a true house arrangement. Lovely electric piano note rolls accentuate each other over a descending chord progression that is equally as dark as the chords on A1. There’s so much to love about Rick’s effortless ability to showcase house music with his perfect call and response structure and reverbed reverse crash samples at the end of each phrase. Though more for the peak hour, this tune is just as laden with emotion as the other two.

The closing track “Understand” makes a journey back to fusion of styles by what I identify as heavy minimal techno breaks influence. The solid upbeat hi-hat samples are traded for a more skittering and syncopated rolling style. Complimenting this choice is a very energetic bassline that bounces up and down around the drums. My favorite aspect of this track though, is the crate-digger sample usage of an old after dinner type ballad record that features the words, “I understand – of course, you couldn’t know,” and the string quartet that originally accompanied the vocalist on that record. Rick adds in his own flare with dreamy piano scales amidst high-pitched chord wisps. Put all together the recording is majestic in theory and infectiously jacking by nature.

This record is seriously top-notch stuff from a well known and respected American producer. In addition to making outstanding music, Rick Wade is an absolute joy to experience in person, so make sure to catch his performance if you’re ever presented with the opportunity to do so. He is able to deliver that feeling and energy that takes the form of our most treasured exercise in escapism.

You should be able to find this record on the racks of more reputable brick and mortar record shops for around $10 but it’s still on Juno for an extremely agreeable price. If there’s a bundle you’re trying to procure on deejay.de act fast as it’s nearly sold out. Delightfully, the record has a perfect 5-star rating so far on Discogs. Whatever you end up paying, this piece of music comes highly recommended from your friends here at Sequencer.

Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Nick States, of Boston, bought his first vinyl record in 2010 and has been hooked ever since. The record shop tends to be his first stop in an any city he visits.

Wax Runoff: Tolga Fidan [TFR002]

The wonderful smell of dance music stew. It’s always satisfying to come across records that create a melting pot for different sounds to coalesce around one another and touch on many different tastes. Such is the case for TFR 002 which arrived mid-February to the anticipation of in-the-know techno goons and house heads. Berlin-based producer and sole proprietor Tolga Fidan’s second EP on the TFR imprint rounds the bases of stylistic influence but there is a tangible nod to excellent electro throughout the entire record.

With a white paper sleeve and black and white image of an old youthful cosmonaut on the center label, this tasty slab wasn’t easy to miss while flipping through the stacks. Recognizing the producer’s name from the bill for the recent third anniversary party at Berliner favorite spot Hoppetosse prompted me to bring it to the listening station, though, and I’m quite happy I did.

The first cut “Gertu” left an impression with it’s energetic house drum arrangement and simple bounce between sharp C and F string pads. The loops roll out in perfect layers accompanied by the gated pitters of mid 2000s electro. I haven’t seen many highly acclaimed records with this sort of sound recently and it’s really quite refreshing, so I ventured further down the grooves.

TFR002

“ZUNBS341” on A2 bestowed more of the same electro circuit blips on my hungry ears. A very similar chord back-and-forth to the first track appeared again, but the huge difference was the house drums having been ditched for a more breakbeat style kick and snare arrangement. There is killer bassline that relentlessly slinks up and down for the entirety on the tune leaving it with a thematically matched vibe to the first but ready to take on a different time and place on the dance floor.

I had to see what awaited on the B-side. The first drum beats of “Hoofe” let me know we would be dealing with a high-energy techno number. The fact that the almost identical two chord call and response structure was beginning to feel a tad stale was totally overruled by the acid skronks dancing around the electro machine spittle and incredibly slamming hi-hat clap layers dipping in and out of the arrangement. More spacey and expertly crafted to subtle perfection,  B1 was designed to be the music in a calisthenics class for the robots that will one day kill the last human and take over the world.

Perhaps the deepest cut on the record,  “Grand” finishes things up with the breaks rhythm arrangement popping in once more. There’s plenty of filter and resonance modulation in the pads to propel the composition through more noisy electro arps and one shots, but most noticeably hot acid stabs cause a very demanding urge to jack one’s body. This final tune nicely pulls together a record that is consistent and complete.

It’s the goal of any crate-digging mastermind to pull records from the bin that less people own and more people ask about when played. The trend of breaks with varied influence in minimal and techno styles has been a big one, and the commitment to solid electro synth sequences here is a refreshing move. I almost want to criticize the seemingly duplicate chord arrangements in each track, but the masterful control of machine and design leave the listener completely satisfied.

Unless you’re lucky enough to have a local shop with the knowledge to stock this vinyl-only gem, it can be found at various online outlets; my preferred spot is Juno due to lightning fast shipping, and stocks are dwindling but it’s still available over at Decks for slightly more than you’ll pay on Discogs. I would not be surprised to hear these cuts slip into the sets of tastemakers in the techno, minimal, and even house realms during the coming months. Enjoy the wonderful congregation of styles, and as always, keep digging my friends.

Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Nick States, of Boston, bought his first vinyl record in 2010 and has been hooked ever since. The record shop tends to be his first stop in an any city he visits.

 

Jarvi

In a world where society is structured by gender being categorized in two opposite forms, Jarvi Schneider’s gender identity lands fluidly somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, free from segmented definition. Fully enveloped in Chicago’s queer scene, the self-identified nonbinary artist and DJ was raised as a child in the house and techno scene of Detroit. 

Jarvi spent their adolescence in Ann Arbor, Mich., eventually moving on to Commerce Township until the end of high school, to finally land in East Lansing, Mich. before moving to Chicago in 2012. The move, Jarvi says, was “to finally free myself from a state of no jobs, lack of public transit, and extreme queerphobia and racism.” Due to this atmosphere and being a hairstylist by trade, the salon was a difficult environment to find comfortable footing in Michigan.

While living in Michigan Jarvi says that “even within the queer communities, there is a lot of ideas of what a queer person ‘should and should not be’ or ‘look like’ to really be accepted.” They came out officially as nonbinary about two years ago.

To identify as nonbinary means one does not identify as exclusively masculine or feminine. “I have always been androgynous. I have always been called a boy. I think the worst of it all was being forced into a queer identity (lesbian), because anything outside of the binary was even too much for suburban Detroit queers to grasp. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard the term ‘nonbinary’ until I moved to Chicago, and even then I could hardly grasp it because of what I was accustomed to all my life. After some major trauma in my life, I realized that I had to make sure for the sake of my own brain and my chosen family, I had to be true to myself and who I am.”

JARVI / ACID DADDY

Chicago for Jarvi meant better opportunities and was a cheaper and easier move from Michigan. “I sold my car, packed everything I owned into a Ford Excursion, and my cat, and I moved to Chicago knowing only a couple folks from high school, to start my new life.”

Jarvi is a member of the Naughty Bad Fun Collective crew, a resident of Planet Chicago night at Smartbar, and also runs and curates freaky queer club night Acid Daddy’s Haus of Diesel. Their introduction to the NBFC became a pivotal moment for Jarvi’s life in Chicago by experiencing an open, free environment and eventually learning the art of DJing.

“I found this crew (or maybe they found me) shortly after I moved to Chicago. They threw the best undergrounds in the city, always had the most welcoming vibes, and even outside of the rave we all became more than just people you hang with at the party,” Jarvi says. “After meeting Sam and the crew, I pretty much attended everything that NBFC did and started to help out with setup and tear down. Somewhere between that and the DJ lessons, I became one of the crew!”

NBFC

NAUGHTY BAD FUN COLLECTIVE

It was just before Jarvi’s birthday in 2013 when God Particle label owner and NBFC’s Sam Kern (otherwise known as Sassmouth) gave them their first ever DJ lesson as a birthday gift. Jarvi says that “after two lessons we just vibed and kept working together. I think the bond we share is incredible because I have been listening to and attending techno and house events since childhood with my father, and not one friend or other DJ I have ever met had ever offered to teach me the craft. I’ve always known the music industry is a boys club, and having the opportunity to try to do something I loved and admired for years with a person who understands the struggle of not being a cis man in this scene, is easily the best gift I’ve ever received.”  

The NBFC is comprised by Kern, Jarvi, Pat Bosman, Ryan Kelley, and a slew of other DJs, producers and artists that overtime have helped create and maintain the collective. The core crew shares roles collectively when it comes to bookings, design and direction. “That’s one of the best parts about working with these folks is that every last little bit of the vibe is created by all of us. I will say though that setting up sound has absolutely nothing to do with me. I can barely set up my TR8 to Ableton without referring to notes,” Jarvi says with a laugh.

For the month of March both Kern and Jarvi continue to use their established music platforms as a vessel to push and strengthen female, female-identified and queer artists, DJs and promoters by participating in Daphne. The month-long festival hosted by Smartbar will incorporate workshops and events to emphasize that mission. According to Jarvi, the biggest obstacle for women and queer persons is commodification.

“The constant struggle of, do you suck it up and go through it in hopes that you will get closer to being seen, heard, understood? I can’t tell you how many times I read an article about some white cis techno dude talking about his struggle not getting booked and having to work his awful 9-5 when all he wanted to do was play his Surgeon records for a packed underground rave. Sometimes it feels like there’s only a certain allotted amount of women-identifying and queer artists, and the recycling of the same ones can be frustrating not because they shouldn’t be getting all the gigs, but because there are so many of us in the world without exposure simply because so many people who are in charge of bookings don’t want to look. Probably because they don’t REALLY care. I think it’s also important to point out that if your women-identifying idols in music don’t help any other queer, women-identifying and nonbinary, or POC artists, they probably aren’t as progressive as you think.” – JARVI

Motivated by the frustration and with a desire to maintain personal and creative freedom, Jarvi started Acid Daddy’s Haus of Diesel a little over a year ago. The stage persona Acid Daddy came to fruition for Jarvi during Plastic Factory, the first party they were ever involved in at Berlin Nightclub.

“The party was a wild latex club-kid party with wacky installations and performances. La Spacer and I were the resident deejays for the Thursday night monthly, and it evolved somewhat from a joke in our group about how me and one of the other members were the ‘daddies’ of our group, and my love for acid house – among other things.”

JARVI & SASSMOUTH

Long after the Plastic Factory parties, Jarvi continued on harnessing the Acid Daddy energy. “I was up at a camping trip, Tentsex, when at some point in the weekend our generator runs out of – you guessed it – diesel. In a loopy state, I’m arguing with someone about how to get more fuel for the generator so we can get the music back up and running, and in stubborn Taurus fashion I storm off back to my tent. Sam happens to be in a porta potty and overhears me mumbling to myself something about ‘Acid Daddy, gimme that diesel’. The phrase stuck, and when I was given the chance to do my own party at Berlin [Nightclub], Acid Daddy’s Haus of Diesel just made sense!”

Acid Daddy is so much more than just a name. Jarvi says, “I think what is so important to me about this stage name (that may in the future develop into a moniker for music) is that it really represents the evolution of my gender identity and the happiness that comes from no longer being forced by society to be something I am not.” The name encapsulates and empowers Jarvi’s freedom from the oppressiveness of gender normative roles.

The house and techno scene is historically rooted in providing a free space for people of all types and expressions. There are so many artists, promoters, writers and DJs out there that continue to use the electronic music environment as a platform to promote cultural and social awareness, by cultivating a safe welcoming space. Yet, there are places within house and techno where those roots have been lost somehow. Our music scene is just a microcosm of our society at large.

To deviate from the normalities of any facet can result in a negative response from others. That’s what makes the dance floor so unbelievably significant. That’s what makes artists like Jarvi and so many others equally important. To understand that gender and sexuality are on a spectrum is to see that by inherently breaking binaries we are simply forming unity.

“The gender binary is just a way to keep cis men in control and women-identifying folks subservient. Even the most progressive cis folks I know still show me totally innocent ways of being affected by the binary. I think the most obvious is the inability to use gender neutral pronouns. Folks can learn a new hobby, how to operate a vehicle, or get a certificate/degree in a field they’ve never understood in their life but can’t incorporate a plural, nonbinary pronoun into their vocabulary when they already know the word. I struggled with the use of ‘they/them/theirs’ at first, and I identify that way. Sometimes I think folks can’t grasp the use of neutral pronouns because they still don’t really believe that it exists. I connect very much with femininity and that identity, but not 100 percent. I cannot really say that I relate to anything masculine, and honestly spent a lot of time trying to dismantle the binary connection with words, for example, ‘daddy’. NBD (nonbinary daddy) is a term we use out here in the Chicago queer scene a lot. I highly doubt I started that term, but it definitely fits like a glove.”

What does being nonbinary mean specifically for Jarvi?

“Grey area. In between. Not this, not that. I truly believe there are more nonbinary folks in this world that exist than cis folks. Once the term becomes more common in mainstream queer entertainment (because it has to start there before we get it across the board) I think a lot of folks who realized that this binary they’ve been forced into because of tradition and fear, really is not for them. Some days I feel like wearing a dress, sometimes I feel like wearing a suit, sometimes I feel like growing out my mustache and being topless in a leather chest harness, but not one of those outfit choices express any binary gender to me. when you erase that, you have so many less things to worry about because you just get to be you. However you want to feel or look, it’s just you.” – JARVI

Nonbinary folks fall within the overarching transgender category. By definition transgender denotes a person whose identity and gender do not correspond with their birth sex. Gender expression and identity is expansive and complex, yet simple at the core: people are who they are, and they should feel comfortable being and expressing themselves. But we live in a society where transphobia is very real, causing harm (in varying degrees) to those who identify beyond the binary. 

Jarvi spoke a little bit deeper about experiences had alongside Chicago DJ/promoter Ariel Zetina. “My relationship with Ariel, be it romantic or platonic, has always provided us with struggles from the outside cis hetero and cis gay male groups. Whether it’s slurs stemming from binary-loving cis hetero normies, or the hyper-sexualization of both our nonbinary trans identities. By cis gay men, we both encounter negativity even in the most unlikely of places (i.e. queer spaces). I have learned so much from her, especially about POC trans and queer-related events, artists, and struggles that are otherwise swept under the rug so to speak in primarily white queer spaces (which is most of the spaces in Michigan).”

How can we help? Javi says: educate. “If you hear something offensive or hurtful, it’s pretty easy to respectfully explain why that isn’t tolerated and to enforce that strict no-tolerance of hate in spaces, whether it’s rave spaces or the dang super market.”

Music will continue to be the space for Jarvi where there is safety and love. It is so very clear that this deeply rooted passion has helped them evolve and grow into a true representation of themselves. Isn’t that what we’re all really striving for?

“I love music because it saved my life. It can say everything I can’t put into words. The music itself doesn’t judge me, it guides me. Without music I would never know the rave scene. I would never have found my chosen family in the underground where you can be anyone you want to be, as freaky and weird and out there as you want. Like-minded individuals all there together because the world doesn’t see us as the creative and beautiful individuals we are. PLUR forever.”

Catch Jarvi’s Buffalo debut this Saturday for the next installation of REDUX, along with Cleveland’s Father of Two.